Social Distance Summer Reading List

Your reading List Is Here!

Summer is here and social distancing is still encouraged, which means it is time for our sweet summer reading list (with a social distance twist) to make a comeback. 

I am a lover of literature. In fact, when I read, it can appear as if I am full on attacking the book. Brenton has described the way I read books as “gobbling” and my entire family knows not to mess with me while I’m reading. 

Summer Reading List Fun

As a kid, one of my favorite things about summer was the unlimited and uninterrupted time to read. I would check out books from the library weekly (like Matilda), read everything in the house if I ran out of library books, and for the majority of my formative years I got to go to Harry Potter midnight book releases at my local mall bookstore (which was by far my favorite event of the summer). 

I’ll stop now before this becomes a love letter to books but needless to say I think books are the most magical inanimate objects that we get to spend our time with. Being literate is a damn privilege. 

Reading Resolutions

I know a lot of you may not share my romance towards paper friends but I also know that one of the most common New Year resolutions people make is to READ MORE. 

So, since we have all this time at home, nowhere to go, and access to the world wide web I’m going to share with you my top fiction literary friends for big kids (or adults depending on how you see yourself). 

One last thing for those of you who “don’t like to read” or may not have time. Have you given audiobooks a try? I’ve got an affiliate link with audible located below. Give it a try before you write off the magic of books completely!

*Links in this post are affiliate links.

The Fiction Reading List

Harry Potter

I can’t create a book list without including my tried and true literary best friend. If I could reread one book series for the first time and relive the magic of uncovering all the details this would be it. I don’t care how old you are, if your mother told you this series is evil, or if you hate fantasy – this is a well written, fully developed, deeply rooted in our current environment series. If you have skipped out on reading the series because you “watched the movies,” YOU MISSED OUT – read them. I beg of you. 

I spent an entire summer as a pre-teen trying to figure out what would happen in the 7th book of this series and you, you lucky little unicorn, you get to read them all back to back. Enjoy! The series starts light (books 1-3), delves into the darker subjects (books 4 and 5), then takes a deep dive into the tragedies of living in a society that would rather accept the status quo than accept that evil lives among them (books 6 and 7). I revisit this series every time I need a boost in my faith in humanity. Hogwarts is my literary home away from home. The importance of choosing to live a life of love when the world feels bleak is the golden thread of this series. Dig in! 

“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

Little Fires Everywhere

A custody battle, family arguments and a mystery on who started the fire. This is a modern classic packed with detail and care. A statement about the ignorance behind the idea of a post-racial world is poignant. The story takes place in the 90’s and reminds us of how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.

The Female Persuasion: A Novel 

Another tried and true classic of mine. I posted a blog post about this book when I read it a couple years back and I still think about the plot. Wolitzer is able to create REAL characters in all of her works and this novel is no exception. This book delves into the generational differences of the women’s rights movement and the fight that we are still embodying today. 

The characters are robust, the plot is both political and personal and this is a work of art with great importance.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

I read this masterpiece in high school and I still think about it often. The writing is lyrical, the story is so profoundly independent and the pace is steady throughout the novel. This is a peak into a life that, as a white woman in the 21st century, I could not have imagined. Books like this are why it is so crucial to read literature from BIPOC authors.

Anna Karenina

If modern literature isn’t your thing here is a Russian classic. Honestly, this is the best novel I have ever read. There’s a city mouse, country mouse like drama, failed romances and the tragedy of passionless relationships. The human experience in all forms.

Conclusion

I’ve started with some chunky reads so I’m going to leave you here for now. Leave a comment or send me a message if you would like to see more or have a non-fiction summer reading list added. 

Happy Reading!!

But Really Though Reads- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Have you read a book as an adult that you wish you had read as a child? The Golden Compass made me envious of anyone under 12 picking it up for the first time. I distinctly remember wanting to see the movie after seeing the preview in theaters but luckily, from the looks of its 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, I never did.

Oddly enough, after loving that preview this bookworm never picked up the trilogy. I must have written it off as a children’s series in my HS days and stuck to rereading the Harry Potter series until the books began falling apart. I honestly never thought about the series again.

Recently Brenton and I were in one of our favorite bookstores and he picked up the first book. The moment he finished the book he looked at me and asked if we could go buy him the next one; it was a book emergency. The next day we bought him the rest of the series. Once we got him settled in the second book I decided to pick up the first one to see how valid his book emergency was.

IT WAS VERY VALID.

I’ve had friends refer to the trilogy as the atheist kid’s Narnia or a girl centric Harry Potter but after reading the first book I think what makes it special is that the first novel is a girls journey to independence. Harry and Lucy et al survive with the help of their friends and family. For Lyra, our heroine, all she can trust is herself and her daemon (physical form of soul/conscience), Pantamilion.

Another factor that differentiates this series from others is that there is an immediate rejection of the church and religion. Lyra learns rather quickly that almost everyone under the guise of being part of the church has an ulterior motive. Lyra has a fairly accurate bullshit meter from the beginning of the novel and it only gets stronger as she acquires more skills and tools throughout her semi-solo travels.

A fault of the series is that it is a novel about a wild girl that was obviously written by a man. The way Lyra rejects all things feminine is written as a differentiator instead of a casual personality trait. It comes off tone deaf in our current culture. 

In an attempt to not give anything else away, and also because I immediately want to start book two after finishing this one, I am going to wrap this up here. Sound off in the comments if you have read the series and what your thoughts are! I’ll be back with feedback on the rest of the series soon.

But Really Though Reads – Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been in a  ~ sp0oKy~ fantasy reading mood lately and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are hitting the spot.

None of the Discworld books are even remotely close to horror but they scratch the itch of light and dark magic emotions that come up during autumn (aka spook season). I picked Wyrd Sisters as my introduction to Discworld on a whim. I’m under the impression that the characters overlap but it is not necessary to read the history of the planet that travels on the back of the sky turtle in order.

Wyrd Sisters is the story of three witches and how willing they are to break their own rules of magic to help their kingdom. The three witches are only a coven by definition; they have more differences in agreement than their alignment to each other. Our three leading ladies are Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat. Granny is the eldest witch and the least willing to participate in anything showy or fluffy. Nanny is promiscuous and life of the party. Magrat is the youngest and an idealist about the state of her coven.

The three women venture through time and space, which is much out of Granny’s comfort zone, to assist the Kingdom (personified not as individuals) in removing an awful king from power. The story is witty, hilarious and alludes to the showy witches of fairytales (Cinderella’s fairy godmother makes a cameo).

I highly recommend Wyrd Sisters to anyone who loves a magical world with a sarcastic twist. I will definitely be visiting Discworld again.  

But Really Though Reads – The Female Persuasion

I finished another book and I can’t stop thinking about it. I gobbled through Meg Wolitzer’s newest book The Female Persuasion over the last two weeks and it has left me in the strangest emotional place.

If you have not read anything by Wolitzer please do yourself a favor and pick up one of her novels now. Her stories are what I imagine we would have gotten if Sylvia Plath had access to Prozac (and her YA novel Belzhar is proof). Wolitzer creates her characters from all angles meaning that the reader gets to see them through multiple perspectives (themselves and others) in the book. Just like in reality, the character has no idea and no control over what others think of them. The feelings are raw and the strings don’t tie up neatly, but her writing encompasses the human emotional scale.

With this prior experience in Wolitzer’s worlds I picked up The Female Persuasion thinking I was prepared for the uncomfortable moments and the characters that make me squirm. I was not ready for the journey we take through Greer Kadesky and Faith Frank’s lives. Greer meets Frank when Frank speaks at Greer’s college. Wolitzer carries us lovingly through the beginning of the professional relationship between the second and third wave feminist duo. The novel touches on intersectionality, the recognition of privilege and the importance of a feminist boyfriend. Wolitzer also highlights where the animosity between second and third wave feminism stems from through anecdotes from Faith and Greer’s lives.

I’m going to stop here before I ruin the novel for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Wolitzer’s novel is filled with triumph, heartbreak, deceit, confusion, tragedy and ends on the importance of everyone using their power for good until they cannot anymore.

Have you read The Female Persuasion yet? If so, what did you think of it?

But Really Though Reads – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Maybe I’m spoiled from reading Harry Potter as a kid but it takes a special writer to get me to buy in to a fictional world. I love the world of fantasy but a magical universe has to be not only well thought out, but descriptive and vivid as well. Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy. He is able to describe locations with enough detail to set the stage but with enough blanks to let the reader’s imagination run wild.

Neil Gaiman created a fantastical world right on the edge of reality. Well, actually he put it in the world beneath us. Neverwhere is a story about people who fall through the cracks. The novel takes place in the London Underground (literally). The characters in this story live in the subways and sewers as either invisible creatures or the people none of us want to make eye contact with on the street. The description of London underground is so realistic it has me looking in doorways and down drain pipes for a gateway to the world of forgotten people.

Our heroine is not a femme fatale – she unlocks the mysteries to the magic. The point that she is the key to everything is made painfully obvious by two things: 1. Her magical ability to unlock doors and puzzles, 2. Her name is Door.

Not only did the heroine entice me – Gaiman’s ability to make London seem magical yet identical to any major city is magical. I’ll give you a little taste of his magic.

“It was a city in which the very old and the awkwardly new jostled each other, not uncomfortably, but without respect; a city of shops and offices and restaurants and homes, of parks and churches, of ignored monuments and remarkably unpalatial palaces; a city of hundreds of districts with strange names…and oddly distinct identities; a noisy, dirty, cheerful, troubled city, which fed on tourists, needed them as it despised them, in which the average speed of transportation through the city had not increased in three hundred years” 

Neverwhere has opened my eyes to the underground in my own city, the people who have slipped through the cracks. It can be a heartbreaking concept to think about (homelessness, poverty, etc) but it reminded me to keep looking for the deeper meaning in each person and interaction.

Reading about the fantastical lives of the people living in the subway told me to look for magic every doorway and reminded me that I have the key.

Please please please read this book and talk to me about it. I’m obsessed with Gaiman’s magic and the characters of London Underground.

But Really Though Reads – Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

B and I went out for a walk in SF today and we magically ended up near a bookstore. Being the bibliophile that I am we had to take a “quick look around”. My quick look turned into a $30 purchase of two books – one of which I promptly went home and read cover to cover today. The book I chose to spend my Sunday with is Sex Object by Jessica Valenti.

Funnily enough, I have put Sex Object in my Amazon shopping cart upwards of 12 times only to then decide to purchase another work of fiction or a collection of essays instead (I apologize to my past self- I don’t know what I was thinking). I have failed myself by delaying the delivery of this book into my hands – it is amazing.

Valenti doesn’t reclaim the title of sex object, but instead provides anecdotes on how she has come to accept this as part of her identity; not because of anything she has done but because society, specifically through the male gaze, has told her this about herself. Valenti provides powerful truths about being a woman in a world that hates women and she doesn’t leave room for the fluff. Sex Object is neither a fight call or a pity party, it is the truth and that is what makes it so powerful.

Valenti and I share many differences but I could relate to her in every story she told. She explained the guilt we feel as women for telling men no. How, even as a published author and feminist, she can still be made to feel small by comments by men. She explains how easy and common it is for us to not react to someone treating us poorly because we like them or their nice or we don’t want to blow up our friendships. She puts into words the emotions we are forced to carry from all the misogyny and blatantly shitty things men (or women –  anyone can be a sexist) do to women.

Thank you, Jessica Valenti for creating something that felt cathartic to read. Thank you for not forcing a silver lining into every story. It was beautiful and painful and still managed to be humorous.

If you want to buy the book I’ve included a link here.

But Really Though Reads: What Happened

I love Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you have a different opinion of her, especially a derisively negative one, I respect that but I need you to walk away from this post now.

 

Because I love and respect the woman that we would all be calling Madam President if our country hadn’t fucked that up (looking at you white women) I preordered her book months before it came out. My book arrived on Friday September 22nd, and I finished it by Sunday evening.

 

“What Happened” is more than just Hillary’s side of the story. It’s a beautifully crafted love letter to those who supported Hillary and a declaration of hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans. If Hillary can still get out of bed and do something positive with her life after being defeated by a system that was created to protect us, then the least the rest of us can do is RESIST.

 

Hillary’s book is a call to action for her supporters and all progressives. She reminds us that change takes time, effort and whole lot of hope for a better tomorrow. “What Happened” was a reminder to continue calling my representatives. I try to write a letter to my representatives 5 days a week. This may seem time consuming or excessive but I use ResistBot to fax my reps during my morning commute. Text 504-09 to join the resistance. I’ve even received letters back from my local representative.

 

In her book, Hillary also addresses the importance of not taking shit from men. She reminds us of the horrible comments and accusations she faced from her opposition. She also mentions the Bernie issue. Hillary is an intelligent woman who wanted to offer people the best possible plan that she could execute. Bernie wanted to light a fire. His fire resulted in burning the youth vote for her. Unfortunately, many of my fellow millennials did not share the same reverence for our former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State. My personal opinion is that they lacked the knowledge of politics before the Obama era and didn’t understand the what the catastrophic results of a divided democratic party would be.

 

She has paved the way for another woman to reach the highest glass ceiling in the USA – and hopefully that next woman, assuming she is qualified, will shatter it.

But Really Though Reads: Normal by Warren Ellis

Lately I have been reading more to write more (or at least that’s the lie I’ve been telling myself to set aside time to read more).

My most recent read was Normal by Warren Ellis. Normal is a dystopian tech-thriller. This niche category of science fiction includes works like Blade Runner and 1984.

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The succinct novel takes place in a surveillance society not too different from our own. It begins with Adam arriving to Normal Head a mental health hospital for those who have been driven insane by their jobs of “staring into the abyss”. The patients of Normal Head divide themselves by their careers from the outside world; big business paid v nonprofit workers. Adam has played both sides which makes him a slightly more reliable narrator than any other patient at Normal Head; but as the doctor at Normal Head tells Adam “Everyone here is batshit.”

Normal is puzzling, uncannily too close to our current surveillance culture and highly engaging. It has stuck with me days after finishing the novel. The paranoia is palpable from the first page and builds until the last. Every character represents a different approach to dealing with a reality that encourages paranoia, much like our current world. The smokescreen of the pro’s of the surveillance society is lifted and what is left is chilling.  

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to knock a book out in one sitting (I read it in an evening because I could NOT put it down). It’s also great for those of us who love a good conspiracy theory or for those who still recall the uncanny feeling they got while reading Orwell’s 1984.

Leave a comment if you’ve read Normal and let me know your thoughts!

 

*SPOILER* 

 

Did anyone else get Kafka’s Metamorphosis vibes while reading this book?

But Really Though Reads – Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter

Break in Case of Emergency is the best satirical takedown of celebrity philanthropy.

This novel balances, as Mike Schur put it “the moment in your life when you go from ‘young’ to ‘no longer young’”. It presents the stage where you are no longer the youngest person in the office but you don’t feel old enough to be making the decisions presented to you.

Winter’s work handles current global topics such as female friendships, pseudo-feminism, mental health, fertility and the monetary class divide. Jen, the main character, struggles with the absurdity of celebrity charities, the heart wrenching jealousy of the wealthy and the anxiety of having talent with no outlet for it.

Winter’s characters are lovable, multi-faceted and believably human. Jen has talent but lacks the privilege to live the life of her dreams, while it seems like everyone else around her has the monetary support to follow their artistic endeavours and take advantage of her on the way. Something that really resonated with me was her unwillingness to accuse her friends of taking advantage of her. Jen also refuses to let them help her out, not because of her pride but because she would never ask for what she couldn’t return. Women must help other women on the climb to the top without squashing anyone else on the way.

The character development and plot of this novel is what stood out the most to me. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in an in between phase looking for a humorous approach to dealing with the realities of the world we live in.

 

 

 

 

June Goals: Inspiration Creation

It is one thing to want to do something creative it is a different thing to actually do it.

I’ve learned throughout May that the hardest part is the dedication and setting aside the time, but both are closely followed by figuring out what to do.

But as Jack London said “ You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club”.

Last month’s broad goal of creating was great. It forced me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture but I also caught myself “waiting” for inspiration and creativity. Fun fact; talent and ideas did not flow through my veins the moment I decided to sit down and try. But I did try! In June I am going to create inspiration for my movements and my writing.

Once again I know this seems broad, but I’ve got a plan.

How am I going to do this? Watching, learning and practice, practice, practice.

To inspire creativity in my movements I’m watching more yoga videos like @erinkellyart. Her flows are gorgeous and natural. Watching her it is impossible to tell where the yoga pose ends and the yogi begins. Seamless. While I don’t want to copy her or try to speak her body language I want to watch and learn her transitions. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I could sing her praises all day, but I want to take ideas and her ability to embody herself in her movements to make my own. She also has inspired me to get my handstand press up within the next year. If you don’t know what this move is I suggest you watch a few of her flows and see her in action. Beautiful.

I also am going to get on my mat everyday, regardless of how much time I have to practice. I want to try different flows by letting my body tell me what needs work and what needs rest. I’m curious to see where my body wants to take me if I listen to it.

I’m going to continue this curiousity off the mat and take every opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. Try new workouts, try new games, put myself and my ideas out there (wherever there is).

In my writing I’m going to follow more creative writing prompts and re-read old books from my childhood/ adolescence. I plan on reading Harry Potter, Matilda, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. After I re-read my favorites I want to read works that are out of my wheelhouse. I plan on going to the library and picking based on recommendations from friends or best seller lists.

While focusing on different reading genres I also want to mirror that with my creative writing. Try my hand at fiction, specifically absurdism (I am most excited to try this!) and see where my stories go. Absurdism, for anyone who is not a huge English nerd like me, is the idea that man is always looking for meaning in life, but there is no meaning. Absurdist writing, like that of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, typically involves a character hunting for meaning in a world that cannot provide the answers. I find this style of writing particularly intriguing as someone who would love to have a purpose, but I have no clue what that purpose is.

Most importantly, taking the time to write write write. From Stephen King’s book, On Writing I have learned that the right of passage to successful writing comes with practice.  

As always, I will let you know how it goes!